Your mouth is connected to the rest of your body. Did you know that your oral health can offer clues about your overall health — or that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body? Your mouth is connected to the rest of your body. To understand how the mouth can affect the body, it helps to understand what can go wrong in the first place. Bacteria that builds up on teeth make gums prone to infection. The immune system moves in to attack the infection and the gums become inflamed. The inflammation continues unless the infection is brought under control.
Research has found an association between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints. Experts say the mechanism of the destruction of connective tissues in both gum disease and RA is similar. Eating a balanced diet, seeing your dentist regularly, and good oral hygiene helps reduce your risks of tooth decay and gum disease. Experts stop short of saying there is a cause-and-effect between gum disease and these other serious health problems, but the link has shown up in numerous studies. The findings of these studies may suggest that maintaining oral health can help protect overall health.
Though the reasons are not fully understood, it’s clear that gum disease and heart disease often go hand in hand. Up to 91% of patients with heart disease have periodontitis, compared to 66% of people with no heart disease. The two conditions have several risk factors in common, such as smoking, unhealthy diet, and excess weight. And some suspect that periodontitis has a direct role in raising the risk for heart disease as well. The theory is that inflammation in the mouth causes inflammation in the blood vessels. This can increase the risk for heart attack in a number of ways. Inflamed blood vessels allow less blood to travel between the heart and the rest of the body, raising blood pressure. There’s also a greater risk that fatty plaque will break off the wall of a blood vessel and travel to the heart or the brain, causing a heart attack or stroke.
People with uncontrolled diabetes often have gum disease. Having diabetes can make you less able to fight off infection, including gum infections that can lead to serious gum disease. And some experts have found that if you have diabetes, you are more likely to develop more severe gum problems than someone without diabetes.That, in turn, may make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels. Reducing your risk of gingivitis by protecting your oral health may help with blood sugar control if you have been diagnosed with diabetes.
A valuable outcome of the possible relationship between gum disease and systemic diseases may be a merging of oral health and whole body health issues within the dental and general medical communities. Such integrated approaches to oral health can only benefit the patient. Above all , this kind of integration provides an opportunity for the dental and medical communities to create unified public health messages about healthy lifestyle choices that can lower the risk of diseases of the whole body. Contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises. Remember, taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.